Minister of health Zweli Mkhize. Picture: SUPPLIED
Minister of health Zweli Mkhize. Picture: SUPPLIED

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in SA has risen to 1,380, but the true number of infections is likely to be far higher, Health minister Zweli Mkhize warned on Wednesday evening. The new tally is an increase of 27 on the day before.

The government is poised to begin a huge screening and testing drive, which is likely to see the numbers increasing in the days ahead, he said.

“We don’t yet have a true picture of the size of the problem,” he said, at the launch of 60 new mobile testing sites managed by the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS).

“We need to test hundreds of thousands of the population to get a better picture and contain it,” he said.

Mkhize said the testing programme would target hotspots and high-risk communities, the details of which had yet to be finalised with provincial health ministers.

The NHLS had done 6,000 tests to date, but was rapidly expanding its capacity, he said. It could do up to 5,000 tests in 24 hours at 10 laboratories around the country, but the mobile units would take its capacity up to 30,000 tests a day, he said.

A total of 4,7541 tests for SARS-Cov-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, had been done in SA to date, the majority of them in the private sector.

Covid-19 has raced around the globe since it emerged in China in December.

By Wednesday evening more than 887,000 cases and 44,200 deaths had been reported in 180 countries and regions around the world, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.